Peru 2: Karaoke in the mountains; a desert oasis; and the big city

After returning from Machu Picchu and catching up on some sleep I had one more night to spend in Cusco before I planned to move on. I’d heard from Crag and Paola that they were also in town and so we organised to have it large that evening as it was likely with my tight schedule and them having the luxury of more time that it would be the last time we would cross paths.

Crag and I had been searching for a Karaoke bar throughout South America but had never been organised or lucky enough to find one, so I made sure that as this was potentially our last night I would find one and we would go and sing. So we polished off a bottle of Pisco between the two of us (Paola was ill so it was lads’ night), and headed to the nearest restaurant which just so happened to be the localist of local places with not the sniff of a gringo. We were served probably the most vile drink I have ever tasted which the locals call Chicha and is some medieval frothy warm milky-coloured grog-like concoction that is truly horrific. But as we were already on the slippery slope and it cost 15 pence for a pint so we forced a few jars down our gregories. We also had some sort of meat in there and attempted to speak Spanish to a few aged locals. We must have done fairly well because we received an invite the next day to one of their houses. Following this and keen to get to Karaoke before it got too busy we hailed a cab and got to the venue for 10pm to find not a soul in-sight. So we sang a few songs to each other (obviously Mack the Knife, Tiny Dancer, Don’t Look Back In Anger etc..) before a few people turned up and we sang a few more songs. Might have been better if there were more people there but it didn’t matter because we’d completed our objective. Suitably drunk we moved onto a local disco ‘Mama Africa’ where I met the French guys from my trek and we continued the party.

The following day I caught the overnight bus to desert town Huacachina (you guessed it, the bus doubled as a sauna). This is a typical one-night stop off for travellers, the activity of choice being sandboarding. The town is quite bizarre, a desert oasis (lake) surrounded by a few buildings that are almost exclusively hostels, restaurants or shops and the whole lot is boxed in by huge 100m high sand dunes – you can walk across the whole town in 5 minutes.

Huacachina – desert oasis:

I checked into a hostel and after some food booked on that afternoon’s sandboarding tour. The tour involves racing around the gargantuan dunes in a big sandbuggy and then boarding down several of them. The finale is watching the sunset go down over the desert. The tour was enjoyable, especially racing over some steep dunes but I found the sandboarding rather tame, especially if you are used to snowboarding which is a lot faster and lasts a lot longer.

Little dune buggy in the sand. Little blue dune buggy in my hand (PoUSA ;)):

Read to ride:

Straight down, “schuss” position:

Even going straight speeds were not mega:

Some awesome views of the desert from atop the higher dunes:

Last ride in:

The next day I caught the bus 5 hours north to the capital Lima . Most people that I’d spoken to hadn’t the time of day for Lima saying it wasn’t the most tourist friendly town and the weather was fairly drab as well. But I was determined to give it a few days, partly because it was the home of two friends I met in Rio: Angelita and Mytzhy, and I knew they would show me the places to go. I rather liked Lima; great food, good night life, friendly people and everything you’d expect from a big city. It was also great to catch up with my Peruvian friends. I spent 4 days in the city just soaking the place up and on the last night I treated myself to a night at the Hilton (courtesy of my KPMG Hilton points ;)).

Keen to maximise my time in Colombia after hearing rumours of it being the jewel of South America I skipped the northern parts of Peru favouring the 27 hour bus ride directly to Guayaquil, Ecuador, where I would arrange my onward travel to the Galapagos Islands. It would appear my luck with South America buses was not about to improve, as even after I opted for the most expensive, most reputable Cruz Del Sur I somehow got a terrible seat next to the stairs which not only reclined about 60% as far as the other seats but had about 6 inches less leg room! Fortunately for me I could stick my legs in the aisle but for the poor French Canadian bloke in the next seat who was a good 3 inches taller than me it must have been agony. Even though I was exhasted after the massive journey I was still determined to complain but on arrival I found the office to be closed. Bugger. Oh well, I was in a new country and would soon be winging my way to the natural wonders that are the Galapagos Islands! 🙂

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